By G9ija

The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), on Wednesday, raised alarm over the increased production of opiates by Afghanistan in 2021.

UNODC’s warning is coming as the country accounts for the supply of heroin to 80 per cent of the world’s users, which includes 87,000 Nigerians.

The UNODC, in a statement issued in Abuja, said that the increase in harvest by eight per cent to 6,800 tonnes meant more heroine production, as the UN and industry experts met in Vienna, Austria, to deliberate on combatting illicit trafficking.

“The opium harvest in Afghanistan increased by eight per cent in 2021 compared to last year, to 6,800 tons, which could lead to markets around the globe being flooded with around 320 tons of pure heroin trafficked from the country.

“According to UNODC’s research brief on “The drug situation in Afghanistan 2021 – latest findings and emerging threats”, Afghan opiates supply eight out of ten users worldwide, while Afghanistan accounted for 85 per cent of global opium production in 2020.

“In Nigeria, according to the 2018 Drug Use survey, there were 87,000, mostly injecting heroin users in the country.

“UNODC’s new research brief on the 2021 opium harvest, completed in July, and the overall drug situation in Afghanistan highlights the urgent need for international assistance to promote sustainable reductions in illicit drug cultivation, production and demand, as part of overall UN support to the people of Afghanistan,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly,” it said.

Based on the UNODC’s research findings, income from Afghan opiates amounted to between $1.8billion to $2.7billion dollars in 2021 inside Afghanistan, but much larger profits were made in the illicit drug supply chains outside the country.

It added that increased political uncertainty in Afghanistan since August 2021 was driving up opium prices, which almost doubled in August compared to May.

“Higher prices may provide an incentive for farmers sowing opium poppy this winter to cultivate more, increasing next year’s harvest,” it said.

The UNODC brief also warned that alongside rising opium and heroin production, methamphetamine manufacture in Afghanistan, using the wild ephedra plant as a precursor, had sharply increased in recent years.

“High regional and global demand for methamphetamine, coupled with a saturated global market for opiates, could push further expansion of methamphetamine manufacturing, as well as that of other synthetic drugs,” it added.